Henry J. Lyons, the embattled president of the nation's largest predominantly African-American denomination, managed to survive a raucous September annual session in Denver in which dissident members seized the convention floor and tried to force him out.

After five days of political maneuvering by both Lyons and his critics, most members of the National Baptist Convention USA still wanted the St. Petersburg, Florida, pastor as their leader.

He remains the head of the 8 million-member denomination despite continued reports that he misused church funds and had questionable relationships with women.

"I am looking for healing," Lyons said after a vote of forgiveness by the delegates—the fourth such vote in three days. "The people have spoken, and they spoke in a great way."

MARITAL STRIFE: Lyons's struggles began on July 6, when his wife, Deborah, allegedly set a fire that damaged a $700,000 waterfront home in Tierra Verde, near St. Petersburg (CT, Sept. 1, 1997, p. 94). Lyons owns the home with Bernice V. Edwards, a Milwaukee woman once convicted of embezzling $60,000 from a school for at-risk students. Lyons has said Edwards is a friend and former convention employee.

Initially, Deborah Lyons told police she started the blaze in a fit of jealousy after learning that her husband and Edwards own the house together. She later changed her story, saying the fire started accidentally when she dropped a lighted cigarette.

Records showed that Lyons and Edwards had been negotiating to buy a $925,000 mansion in Charlotte, North Carolina. Edwards and Lyons's St. Petersburg church had been listed as the owners of a $135,000 Mercedes-Benz. And Lyons and Edwards reportedly bought a $36,200 diamond ring from a St. Petersburg jewelry store. ...

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